Tumbling Acrobatic Automaton
This is a beautiful hand-made, hand-painted wooden toy, made in Germany. The little wooden figure performs a series of back-flips as he descends down the steps.
Automata like this have a history going back over 200 years, when mechanical toys were collected by rich and famous people.
Two somersaulting chinese jugglers were shown in a catalogue from 1803, while a book of collector's items published in 1850 shows a figure virtually the same as this. The internal mechanism used mercury, which flowed and so changed the centre of gravity, allowing the toy to 'tumble'. However the high cost of mercury and the fact that it was poisonous meant that production ceased around 1900.
Recently, a traditional German toymaker has re-invented the toy, with a different, patented, mechanism that uses weights and levers, instead of mercury.
The toy comes in an elegant wooden box, which opens to form the steps down which the automaton tumbles. Only a few of these are made each year.
Made in EU